Whose voices? The fate of Luigi Nono’s 'Voci destroying muros'

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Adlington, Robert (2016)

Luigi Nono's Voci destroying muros for female voices and small orchestra was performed for the first and only time at the Holland Festival in 1970. A setting of texts by female prisoners and factory workers, it marks a sharp stylistic departure from Nono's political music of the 1960s by virtue of its audible quotations of revolutionary songs, its readily intelligible text setting, and especially its retention of the diatonic structure of the song on which the piece is based, the communist “Internationale.” Nono's decision, following the premiere, to withdraw the work from his catalogue suggests that he came to regard it as transgressing an important boundary in his engagement with “current reality.” I examine the work and its withdrawal in the context of discourses within the Italian left in the 1960s that accused the intellectuals of the Partito Comunista Italiano of unhelpfully mediating the class struggle. Nono's contentious reading of Antonio Gramsci, offered as justification for his avant-garde compositional style, certainly provided fuel for this critique. But Voci destroying muros suggests receptivity on the part of the composer—albeit only momentary—to achieving a more direct representation of the voices of the dispossessed.
  • References (14)
    14 references, page 1 of 2

    5. See Adlington, Composing Dissent; Drott, Music and the Elusive Revolution; Kutschke, Neue Linke / Neue Musik; Kutschke, Musikkulturen in der Revolte; and Kutschke and Norton, Music and Protest.

    6. See, for instance, Kutschke, “In Lieu of an Introduction,” 9.

    7. See, for instance, Feneyrou, “Révolutions et terreur musicales”; Ramazzotti, Luigi Nono; Roderick, “Rebuilding a Culture”; and Stenzl, “Portrait.” Several interviews with Nono confirm Gramsci's importance for him, including Várnai, Beszélgetések Luigi Nonóval, and Nono,“Intervista di Jean Villain,” 140.

    17. I am grateful to the late Konrad Boehmer for providing me with a copy of this unpublished text.

    18. Degens, “Nono's tweede avond.”

    19. W.H.B., “Belangrijkste concert”; reviews were also carried by international papers including the Scotsman (July 2, 1970), Die Welt (July 9, 1970), the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (July 14, 1970), and Les lettres françaises (July 15, 1970).

    20. “Publiek loopt weg bij 'muziek' van Nono,” De Tijd, July 1, 1970; “Wereldpremiere van Luigi Nono ging compleet de mist in,” De Volkskrant, June 26, 1970; “Weinig respons op recente werken van Nono,” Algemeen Handelsblad, July 1, 1970; “Componist Nono op dood spoor,” De Volkskrant, July 1, 1970; “Nono's tweede avond een complete afgang,” Trouw, July 1, 1970; “Nono's boodschappen actueel maar vervelend,” Nieuwe Rotterdamsche Courant, July 1, 1970.

    21. Vermeulen, “Gedenkwaardige avond”; Leeuwen, “Publiek loopt weg”; “Lezers over Nono”: “een stoere heupen-vooruit-en-vuisten-gebald houding.”

    22. Schoute, “Teleurstellende première van Nono.” Technical problems had already arisen in the final rehearsal, leading to a last-minute decision to cancel the planned live radio broadcast and substitute a recording of the final rehearsal; see Straatman, “Bromtoon.”

    40. For a survey of Gramsci's influence upon Italian musical culture of the 1960s, see Borio, “Key Questions.”

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